Indianans Debate Livestock Regulations

Indiana farmers and rural residents are debating livestock and agricultural regulations in a state whose livestock production is increasingly dominated by large-scale, industrial animal farms.

In 2005, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels sought to boost the rural economy and protect generations of family farms by relaxing regulations on livestock operations. These relaxed regulations led to the rapid growth of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs and a significant increase in animal farms. Since 2005, for example, hog production has increased by 13 percent.

While these new guidelines have been beneficial for farmers, some residents say they are far too lax. Since 2005, Daniels’ administration has limited the ability of residents to file nuisance suits against farms and has discouraged counties from adopting tougher regulations that currently exist at the state level. These eased restrictions were put in place on top of existing state laws that exempted CAFOs from air quality standards and allowed them to pump animal manure directly onto fields.

These new regulations have also had serious environmental consequences. In 2010, a Randolph County farm spilled about 232,000 gallons of liquefied hog feces into the Mississinewa River killing more than 107,000 fish. The farm in question recently signed an agreement with state officials that would cap fines levied at $1,000.

Rural residents and environmental activists are arguing that this level of deregulation is dangerous to the environment and to human health (they cite a 1996 study linking a string of spontaneous abortions to water pollution caused by hog feces).

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer